August 27 News: U.S. Facing Its Worst Outbreak Ever Of West Nile Virus — Boosted By Record Warmth

The recent West Nile virus outbreak is the largest ever seen in the United States, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [CBS]

Why West Nile Virus Is a Self-Inflicted Wound. [Time]

Why has the summer of 2012 proved so hospitable to the West Nile virus and the mosquitoes that carry it? Like so much else that’s gone this season, blame the weather. An extremely mild winter throughout much of the country allowed more mosquitoes than usual to survive, while the unusually high temperatures this scorching summer further increased their numbers as well as speeding up their life cycle, causing more of the virus to build up in their salivary glands….

As the summer ends, so will West Nile season. But thanks to climate change, this isn’t likely to be the last time a disease we’d usually associate with the tropics makes its way into the U.S. The mosquito-borne dengue fever, which is endemic in much of the tropics, has been reported in south Texas, as well as the Florida Keys. The first U.S. case of Chagas disease, a deadly Latin American infection transmitted by a cockroach-like bug that can feed on human blood, was reported last month. As the climate continues to warm worldwide, the zone of risk for all these diseases and even malaria could continue to expand.

[See also DotEarth: “Scientific research and assessments examining the link between human-driven climate change and malaria exposure have, for the most part, accurately gauged and conveyed the nature of the risk that warming could swell the ranks of people afflicted with this awful mosquito-borne disease.”]

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Ignited by lightning strikes two months ago, a massive fire rages in Alaska and shrouds the surrounding area beneath a dark blanket of smoke. [NY Daily News]

Two wildfires in southern Spain forced the evacuation of around 1,000 residents, making this the worst summer in a decade for countryside devoured by flames, authorities said Sunday. [CBC]

The insurance industry faces its biggest ever loss in agriculture as the worst drought to hit the US in more than half a century devastates the country’s multibillion-dollar corn and soybean crops, triggering large claims. [CNN]

With its bid to launch offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean running up against a deadline to protect against sea ice, Shell Alaska has requested an extension in its window for drilling in the Chukchi Sea. [Los Angeles Times]

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Electric car drivers have crept into the corridors of power with the news that President Obama has approved plans for charging points to be installed in and around Congress. [Business Green]

Higher corn costs, brought on by the most severe U.S. drought in 56 years, has renewed attention on the 5-year-old federal mandate to increase the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline. [Tulsa World]